It’s been a week that I’ve come home from New Orleans, but I’m still under its spell. I just love the city and its vibe, not to mention the food. Last week I told you about the incredible lunches I had, now here is a report of where I had some amazing dinners!
About a year ago I went to the New York Wine and Food Festival, and one of the chefs that was giving a cooking demonstration was Emeril Lagasse, followed by a Q & A session. Emeril has always been my favorite chef, so I got in line to ask a question. Nervously I asked him, if I came to New Orleans, and I could only visit one restaurant, which one of his eateries would he recommend. In a nutshell his answer was to visit Emeril’s and Meril, being that he figured I needed lunch AND dinner. Guess what? That’s exactly what I did.
Emeril’s is no doubt the more classic of the two, and I ended up having my birthday dinner at this elegant restaurant. I’ve had my ears open since I touched down at the New Orleans airport, to see what the locals were recommending for dinner, and I adjusted my choices accordingly. Of course I had to start with his gumbo, which was of course amazing, and Sasha had the New Orleans Barbecued Shrimp with a Rosemary Biscuit. These were some very traditional and delicious dishes. For the main course Sasha chose the Roasted Grand Isle Shrimp, consisting of Garganelli Pasta, Tomato Confit, English Peas, Italian Sausage and Pecorino Fondue. I stole a few bites, and without question, it was a winner. For a couple of days I’ve been told about Emeril’s Grilled Pork Chop by several people, so it was a logical choice for me. It’s one of his signature dishes, and it comes with Caramelized Sweet Potatoes, a Tamarind Glaze and Green Chile Mole. Holy smokes, not only was is exploding with flavor, but it also was the biggest pork chop I ever saw. I could barely finish half. My dessert was his classic Banana Cream Pie, and it had a candle lit on top for my birthday, what a delicious birthday surprise! Sasha had herself a S’mores Ice Cream Sandwich to complete the evening, and all in all I had a dream come true kind of birthday dinner, because this was on my list for a very long time.
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Emeril’s newest restaurant in New Orleans is Meril, named after his daughter Meril. This is a much more casual eatery with the “small plates” concept that is so popular now. It is lively and pretty, and as luck would have it, we were seated very close to the open kitchen. You should know by now how much of a treat I consider that. I actually visited this restaurant a night before my birthday, so the anticipation was growing at this point.
Deviled Eggs. Do I need to say more? I love them. I have to have them whenever I see them on the menu. And I did, and they were amazing. They were actually two different kinds, one with Gulf Shrimp, one with Cajun Caviar and avocado. Loved it. Sasha had the Truffle Pasta Chips with Parmesan and Chives, which were something we never saw before. They were incredibly rich and tasty. We followed this with a Chorizo flatbread, which we shared. This is a typically ordinary dish, elevated by this restaurant. It was super yummy. Another favorite of mine is Pork Belly, and it was a lock once I saw it on the menu. This one was a smoked pork belly with Bourbon, Brown Sugar and green apples. Yes. Awesome. Sasha had an order of Fennel Rigatoni with Gulf Shrimp and spicy Italian Sausage, with was another homerun. For dessert, Sasha had a Dulce De Leche Bread Pudding with a scoop of Salted Caramel Ice Cream, while I was eyeing some cotton candy that was being served to the other tables all night. It looked so delicious and playful that I had to have some for dessert, and lo and behold, it came with a birthday candle! So sweet. What an amazing pre-birthday dinner. Bam….
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Last, but most definitely not least, is actually my first dining experience in New Orleans. One of my favorite Top Chef contestants is Isaac Toups. He appeared on season 13, sassy, hard headed and carnivore galore, his attitude was very much fun to watch for me. His restaurant Toup’s Meatery has been on my list of “gotta go there” for quite a while. Chef Isaac Toups was nominated for a James Beard Award for Best Chef South in 2017. I landed at Louis Armstrong Airport around 1 pm, and I arrived for dinner with my daughter at 8 pm. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of the fan favorite, or even have a little chat, but I had just missed him. Luckily I bumped into him and his lovely wife at Compère Lapin at my birthday lunch two days later. They’re just really awesome people….
Anyway, back to the food! What does one eat at a meatery? Meat of course. Raines Farm Wagyu Beef to be exact, with Cheese Curd Fondue over Roasted Corn Chimichurri. I expected awesome, and that’s just what I got. Sasha went the seafood route with a Gulf Seafood Couvillion, consisting of Louisiana Gulf Fish, Shrimp and Crab Fried Rice. It was so fresh, that when I tried it, I actually tasted the ocean. We skipped appetizers that night in favor of desserts, knowing that the next few days were going to be calorie laden. Sasha had a flourless chocolate & chickory torte with chocolate mousse and rye whiskey blueberry compote, while I indulged in a Doberge with salted caramel, peanut butter and bacon (yes, bacon). It was a deliciously different combination. Another Top Chef Contestant lived up to the standard I have come accustomed to. Bravo (no pun intended)….
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What an amazing trip I had, full of great food, great music and great people. I’m sure my daughter and I will remember this trip fondly forever. I’m so thankful for my children making some of these meals possible for my birthday. It was without a doubt one of my best birthdays ever!
Until next time!